Fund raisers have had a rough few weeks in the public eye in the wake of the recent controversy at NPR. But to the entertainer Queen Latifah, fund raisers are akin to doctors who take the Hippocratic oath: There’s a similar kind of trust between donors and fund raisers, that they will act with integrity.
And the musician and actor did her best to help fund raisers who gathered here Monday for the Association of Fundraising Professionals annual conference feel good about what they do and the people they serve.
“There is no fear in this game,” she said in a speech to attendees. “There is no room for ego. You have to go into the trenches and do what must be done for your organization.
“And it’s worth it, as long as it’s done with honor to those people who give and integrity to those people who are giving.”
Queen Latifah, whose real name is Dana Owens, took to the stage for her appearance amid the loud cheers and claps from a packed house: “You think I’m cool, and I appreciate that.”
She recounted how she learned about the value of charitable giving as a child growing up in Newark, N.J., and how she has gradually increased her philanthropy as she has found more success in her career.
Today Queen Latifah gives to an array of causes: AIDS and cancer research; programs that help the hungry, youths, women, and gays and lesbians; and Haiti relief efforts.
“Giving, to me, starts in your heart and then it extends to your purse and your wallet,” she says. “To me, when I give, I feel so good. I feel so good. I know I made a difference in someone’s life, even if they haven’t met me. It’s an opportunity to bless someone else.”
The actress, 41, also helps run her family’s Lancelot H. Owens Scholarship Foundation, which was started in memory of her older brother, who died in a motorcycle accident in 1992. The foundation, in Jersey City, N.J., gives college scholarships to students from minority high schools.
She said she’s looking to find ways to raise more money for the foundation and tempted the audience with the thought that she was looking to hire a fund-raising professional among the group. The offer was greeted with loud applause.
And while Queen Latifah admitted that some potential donors don’t understand the work of fund raisers, she believes fund raisers deserve admiration for their persistence.
“They don’t stop and they’re relentless,” she said about her experience with being solicited by fund raisers. “But I appreciate them. I appreciate their dedication. That’s what you gotta do, when you care.”